Studio Geniuses

Have you seen The Wrecking Crew yet? It’s a documentary about some of the most prolific studio musicians of all time: people like Tommy Tedesco (guitar), Carol Kaye (bass), Hal Blaine (drums), Plas Johnson (sax), Glen Campbell (guitar), Leon Russell (keyboards) and dozens of others. They were the de facto “sound of the ’60s,” as they played, uncredited, on thousands of records. The group were not called “The Wrecking Crew” at the time; rather, historians came up with the name later on to describe the changing of the guard from the old studio musicians of the 1930s and ’40s to this new batch of upstarts that came along in the late ’50s and stirred everything up.

These guys could and would play anything, including rock ‘n’ roll, and that provided them an opening with the young producers. So apparently, it’s not the Association you hear performing on “Windy,” nor the Byrds on “Mr. Tambourine Band,” nor the Monkees on most of their early stuff (we all knew that already). It’s various members of the Wrecking Crew. Nobody agrees on who was a member of this skilled group or whether they were really a group or a brand at all. They were simply the top-notch union musicians of the day, and they answered the phone when it rang.

A couple of the most fascinating parts of the program are when it takes an in-depth look at the work required of the Crew by some of the most peculiar and demanding personalities of the era: Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. Wilson taped nearly a hundred hours to get “Good Vibrations” just the way he heard it in his head. For members of the Crew, sessions with the Beach Boy were just an item slated on their schedule, several days a week for seven months, taking up long hours, often after midnight. The musicians interviewed spoke glowingly of Brian: how musically knowledgeable and innovative he was, how dedicated he was to teaching them their parts, what a stickler he was for detail. They all called Wilson a “genius”—but if it weren’t for the competence and professionalism of the Crew, we’re led to believe that those sessions might still be going on today.

100 years of studio geniuses: Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Silas Leachman

100 years of studio geniuses: Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and Silas Leachman

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